Matthew 23:1-12; Religion for Show

Jesus begins his final address, his final teaching section, with a warning about scribes and Pharisees. We must distinguish the two, for not all scribes were Pharisees, and not many Pharisees were scribes.

Jesus is addressing the crowd along with the disciples. Given the recent interactions, I doubt the scribes and Pharisees Jesus had just talked to were out of earshot.

The scribes made the scriptures available to the people. Most people could not read and did not have access to copies of the law. The scribes and Pharisees were walking, talking copies of the law. I believe this is what Jesus meant by “Moses’ seat.”

Scripture is authoritative and should be observed. But the people need to be careful to not follow their example. They don’t always walk the talk. Jesus has talked many times about obedience, not just lip service. Here he does it again.

These lawyers are of no help with ways to carry the load they require. They teach the law, but they do not preach the practicalities of it. By contrast, Jesus offers a lighter burden and a more comfortable one at that.

Everything we read here applies just as much to the Christian Church as to the scribes and Pharisees. And we must be careful not to let passages like this lead us into anti-semitism. We can’t afford any more of that.

Jesus does want a show of religion. Jesus doesn’t want religious leaders to seek honorific titles.

There are no levels in the kingdom of God.

Leaders are to be servants. Seek the honors and you are begging to be humbled. You will be humbled.

God is our father and Jesus is our teacher. Teachers and preachers in the church are no different from any other Christians. To use such positions to personal advantage is very dangerous.

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